In 1903, Fred Gaisberg and George Dillnutt conducted the first Asian recording expedition for the Gramophone Company. The recording represents the beginning of the recording tradition in Siam (today Thailand), and they contain evidence of the royal classical traditions and folk music in the region.
Since the 1903 expedition to southeast Asia of Fred Gaisberg and George Dillnutt, numerous recordings were made in Siam. The 78rpm records capture performances of centuries-old court, classical, dramatic, vocal, and folk music genres as they were before such traditions were exposed to the internationalisation and modernisation of Thailand. These include recordings of dontri Thai doem (Thai classical music) dating from before 1930 and the earliest recordings of phleng Thai sakon (Thai international song) made between 1922 and 1955. Although these are essential recordings for Burmese, Singaporean, Thai and Indonesian music history, they remain inaccessible to scholars.
The recordings are mostly held in governmental and private archives. Although there is an interest in preserving them, the records risk disappearing due the lack of expertise and funding.
The project was successful in locating and digitising 2,429 tracks taken from Siamese/Thai 78 rpm gramophone records from the first expedition to Asia by the Gramophone Company from 1903 to the 1960s. The staff at the Khon Kaen University were involved in the project, which greatly improved awareness of the recordings. Copies of the recordings are now available to all staff of the University’s music department and online on the British Library website.